Seeing the soaring bloody violence rates this year feels like watching a series of old western cowboy reruns. Heightened by unusually inflammatory rhetoric that has filled the airwaves, the increase of countless shooting casualties have been unfolding before our very eyes and woefully, also before the eyes of children in the backseats of cars witnessing their fathers gunned down. Indeed, it feels like watching a horror film, except these are reeling in real life. In this heavily armed country, now both villains and victims are losing their lives…which endlessly haunts the living.
Why on earth do we have to passively watch the country turn into a random war zone? How do we reconcile guns and Jesus when many Christians also believe that their right to bear arms supersedes the lives of the vulnerable at the hands of fire arms?
Fixated in a sacred cow of the second amendment, the proponents of gun ownership refuse to see the reality that counters their beliefs. Below lists examples of how gun lovers see what they believe, contrary to the mounting evidences and the wishes of more than 90 percent of Americans (LA Times, “5 Arguments against gun control-and why they are all wrong” by Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes, July 8, 2016, Op-Ed):
- A good guy with a gun would have stopped it
- Shooters target gun-free zones
- No laws could have prevented the tragedy
- Terrorists and criminals aren’t deterred by laws
- Guns are just a tool, like knives and hammers
This LA Times report provides clear evidence that laws influence criminal behavior. We not only see what we believe, but we also act on them. That is why more than 90 percent of Americans want lawmakers to rein in on easy access to assault weapons, and to enforce background checks. Yet, the majority of the elected representatives are captivated by an organization that represents the interests of the few, not the will of the majority of Americans. Consequently, the failure of passing of gun safety measures now endangers the lives of law enforcement officers on the frontlines, as we witnessed in Dallas. Seeing through their own beliefs over many other lives at risks, only in the United States of America, random shootings have become routinized daily traumas.
From early on, we are carefully taught to fear black and admire white. Almost all the vocabularies associated with white are positive whereas black is negative. Just to name a few: blackmail, blacksheep, black magic, and the list goes on and on, whereas the white signifies positives—white lie, snow white, white something…..
These mental images reinforce our false beliefs about fearing the other, determine what we see and therefore, translate into our behaviors. This vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophecy is called the Thomas Theorem theory in sociology. If indeed, our false beliefs that perpetuate violence against different people, who may not be so different after all, then those beliefs must be examined and challenged. However, when people’s social interactions persist homogeneity, we lose such opportunities.
Reducing violence against the Black community, therefore, requires a change in the mental images that cause us to fear Black people in the first place. Although ancient, there is no better way to reduce our fear rooted in false beliefs than by actually crossing our boundaries of taboos and encountering the other. Jesus demonstrates just this in John Chapter 4. To both the woman’s and disciples’ dismay, Jesus broke the social taboos and engaged in a dialogue with the least of these. This woman turned out to be intelligent and capable, and ended up being the first evangelist. Encountering Jesus shattered all of the false beliefs she internalized from the people in her village. We are, indeed, blinded by what we have been taught to see and fear.
Today, our world is in dire need of encountering with the otherized so that we may give peace, not violence, a chance. May God have mercy on us all and change our beliefs to see beyond the status quo’s.